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Monday 14 October 2019

Dubs sweep Wexford aside

Eirgrid Leinster U20 Football Championship Semi-final: Dublin 1-17 Wexford 0-6

Wexford attacker Michael Molloy taking on Dublin defender Neil Matthews
Wexford attacker Michael Molloy taking on Dublin defender Neil Matthews

The Wexford Under-20 football mentors appeared to opt for a damage limitation approach in Parnell Park, Donnycarney, on Tuesday, but it never looked like paying off as Dublin cruised into the Eirgrid Leinster championship final with 14 points to spare.

The visitors deployed eight defenders and just four attackers within seconds of throw-in, as number 10 Dylan McVeigh and number 15 Ciarán Kavanagh dropped back immediately to play between their own full- and half-back lines.

That left a two-man half-forward pair of Horeswood colleagues Jamie Myler and Seán Nolan, with Kilanerin duo Michael Molloy and Seán Forde operating closer to the opposition goal.

The sense of caution was understandable in one sense, given that Dublin had blown Longford away in the first ten minutes of their quarter-final.

And with two key defenders - team captain Eoin Porter and Páraic Hughes - absent due to injury, the rearguard was always likely to come under heavy pressure.

Wexford were determined to stay in the game for as long as possible but, while the tactic did deny the favourites any clearcut first-half goal chances, by the same token the lack of an attacking threat meant that there wasn't any chance of pulling off an unexpected win either.

There was a slightly more adventurous approach to the second period after Wexford trailed by 0-9 to 0-2 at the break, with James Kelly brought on for McVeigh to play as an orthodox right half-forward, leaving Kavanagh as the sole extra defender.

However, a sweeper system is most vulnerable direct from the throw-in, and that's exactly when the Dubs pounced for their goal.

With Wexford obliged to re-start with six players in the opposition half, it meant that the cover hadn't a chance to get back when midfielder Donal Ryan won possession and soloed straight down the middle.

He off-loaded to sharpshooter Ciarán Archer at the ideal time, and the full-forward rattled the net with his left foot after a mere 13 seconds to kill off the admittedly very slim chance of a comeback.

While an air of inevitability surrounded the outcome from a very early stage, it was still an achievement of sorts to win two games and make it to the provincial semi-final.

Indeed, they were the first Wexford football team to triumph in a brace of championship matches on the trot since they did it themselves as Minors in 2017, accounting for Wicklow and Carlow two years ago before losing in the penultimate round to Louth.

Jamie Myler - who delayed his departure for a foreign holiday in order to play - kicked the first of their six wides inside one minute, but the visitors then enjoyed a long spell of patient possession before giving the ball away cheaply.

That led to a foul on Dublin's Brian O'Leary and the start of a 1-8 haul for Ciarán Archer from the St. Maur's club in Rush, with the lead quickly doubled by James Doran from a Peadar Ó Cofaigh-Byrne off-load.

A harsh pushing call against Gavin Sheehan as he contested a high delivery with Archer led to the latter making it 0-3 to nil in the seventh minute, and the opportunities for Wexford to attack were in short supply.

Ben Maddock did drop one scoring attempt short in the tenth minute, while Seán Nolan sent a difficult free wide from the left sideline, with Archer converting a placed ball from 43 metres in between.

The underdogs opened their account near the end of the first quarter, after Jamie Myler sprayed a crossfield pass into the path of the team's best forward, Michael Molloy, in the right corner.

He off-loaded to Nolan who fired over a beauty with the outside of his left boot, but it was a brief moment of quality on a difficult night for Wexford.

The power of the home side in the tackle was a key factor, and they would have been considerably more than seven points ahead at the break were it not for some poor shooting.

Dublin posted ten first-half wides in all and, while some of them arose from the pressure exerted by Wexford having extra bodies in defence, they were guilty of wild kicking on more than one occasion.

It was also noticeable that they only kept one free defender to mind the house themselves, with the other pushing up to negate the influence exerted by their rivals' additional backs.

The second quarter opened with points from Brian O'Leary, after a one-two with James Doran, and Ross McGarry from a free, before a foul on Michael Molloy led to Jamie Myler pulling one score back in the 22nd minute.

However, Wexford only managed one attack of note from then until the break, with a Seán Nolan kick falling short, whereas the Dubs widened the gap to seven thanks to additional points from Doran, Archer (free) and Niall O'Leary.

It looked like an embarrassing second-half might be on the cards after Archer's immediate goal on the re-start, especially as the same player (two, one free) and Ross McGarry stretched the lead to 1-12 to 0-2 by the 39th minute.

Jamie Myler posted a wide, while Michael Molloy drove a high scoring attempt into the arms of netminder David O'Hanlon before enjoying a better return towards the end of the third quarter.

His first point came from an Enda Minogue pass, although Dublin replied 45 seconds through Niall O'Leary. However, Darragh Brooks' kick-out cleared midfield and fell into the path of Molloy who soloed away to narrow the margin to 1-13 to 0-4 in the 43rd minute.

Brooks then came out to the 45-metre line to nail a free after a foul on Minogue, but that was the only time in the game when Wexford put two scores back-to-back.

They went twelve minutes before Cathal Kirwan won a 50-50 ball that resulted in Ben Maddock feeding Ciarán Kavanagh for the last point, while their final three wides came from Michael Molloy with two (one via the left post), and Jamie Myler.

Liam Coleman continued to try very hard at midfield and on the basis of the championship as a whole is a genuine prospect, one whose performances with Castletown on the club scene will be watched with interest.

On the whole, though, Wexford were out of their depth, and Dublin eased their way to that 14-point margin thanks to further points from substitute Conor Kinsella, Brian O'Leary, and two more Ciarán Archer frees.

Kinsella and fellow replacement Evan Caulfield also combined to split the defence in the 59th minute, but Archer didn't hit the target on that occasion as Darragh Brooks got a foot to his low drive.

While it is common knowledge that Wexford football is in quite a dark place, the potential for improvement exists within this group of young men. Therefore, it is of paramount importance for a pathway of progress to be developed to assist them in contributing to the re-building programme required at Senior level.

Hopefully, they won't be cast to one side and left to their own devices just because this championship campaign is over

Wexford: Darragh Brooks (Castletown, 0-1 free); Killian Pierce (Castletown), Gavin Sheehan (Gusserane), Liam O'Connor (St. Mary's, Rosslare); Dylan McVeigh (Starlights), Ciarán Kavanagh (HWH-Bunclody, 0-1); Byron Byrne (HWH-Bunclody), Adam Hogan (HWH-Bunclody), Enda Minogue (Ballyhogue); Ben Maddock (St. Martin's), Liam Coleman (Castletown); Jamie Myler (Horeswood, 0-1 free), Seán Nolan (Horeswood, 0-1); Michael Molloy (Kilanerin, 0-2), Seán Forde (Kilanerin). Subs. - James Kelly (Davidstown-Courtnacuddy) for McVeigh (HT), Cathal Kirwan (Sarsfields) for Hogan (HT), Peter Kelly (Ballyhogue) for Forde (49), Michael Kinsella (Marshalstown-Castledockrell) for Byrne (56), Philip Dempsey (St. Martin's) for Minogue (60), Jamie Kavanagh (HWH-Bunclody) for Pierce (60), also Adam Dempsey (Sarsfields), Nathan O'Connor (Starlights), Eoghan Herlihy (Oylegate-Glenbrien), Jack Kehoe (Horeswood), Conor Kehoe (Sarsfields), Colum Feeney (Adamstown), Barry Doyle (Marshalstown-Castledockrell), Seán Bookey (Kilrush).

Dublin: David O'Hanlon; Darren Maher, Daire Newcombe, Eoin O'Dea; Kieran Kennedy (capt.), Neil Matthews, Seán Lambe; Peadar Ó Cofaigh-Byrne, Donal Ryan; Niall O'Leary (0-2), Karl Lynch-Bissett, James Doran (0-2); Brian O'Leary (0-2), Ciarán Archer (1-8, 0-7 frees), Ross McGarry (0-2, 1 free). Subs. - Kieran McKeon for McGarry (39), David Lacey for Lynch-Bissett (48), Conor Kinsella (0-1) for Matthews (48), Aaron Lynch for O'Dea (53), Seán Farrelly for Ó Cofaigh-Byrne (56), Evan Caulfield for N. O'Leary (58).

Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath).

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